The work on the IOC’s prestigious LPG import terminal project at Puthuvypeen near Kochi, facing opposition from the local people, was suspended today even as Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan ruled out abandoning the crucial project. It has also been decided that Indian Oil Corporation would halt the construction on its LPG terminal project till an expert panel examines the alleged breach of environment clearance norms by the oil major for construction of the terminal and clears it of local people charges, said Vijayan. Vijayan announced the decision of temporary suspension of the project work after a meeting with representatives of “LPG Terminal Virudha Janakeeya Samara Samiti,” IOC officials, local political leaders and the state government officials.
The Kerala chief minister announced about the suspension of the project work while ruling out the abandoning of the IOC’s LPG import terminal project at Puthuvypeen, facing stiff opposition from the local people. “Abandoning the project will send a negative message about the state’s stand on development,” he told reporters adding that the government has a clear view on development projects needed for the state. “The (government’s) focus is to implement these projects,” he said Vijayan, however, added that government would not ignore the apprehensions of the local people over the project and it would be addressed.
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The government would ensure that the plant is built with adherence to all safety standards and environmental norms, he said. An expert committee would be constituted to look into the charges of local people that the IOC had violated environment clearance norms for construction of the terminal, he said It has also been decided that IOC would halt construction on the project till the committee submitted its report, he said, adding “the committee’s recommendation will be binding on all concerned.” Quoting IOC, Vijayan said the storage tank coming up at Puthuvypeen was one of the most modern and with international safety standards.
“It is designed as a mounted bullet that will withstand tsunamis and earthquakes. A study conducted by IIT Madras also confirmed the safety aspect of this design,” he pointed out. The chief minister also referred to the sanction of National Green Tribunal and the high court for the plant. On issues connected with the police action on agitators, Vijayan said the government would examine that issue also.
Reacting to the outcome of the meeting, Samara Samithi leaders said that they welcomed the government’s decision in this regard. They also said the ongoing blockade as part of their agitation would be withdrawn. However, they said their demand for scrapping the project remained intact. Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition in the state assembly Ramesh Chennithala criticised the chief minister for not taking action against the police personnel responsible for the June 18 lathicharge on agitators, which left 23 persons injured.
The agitation against the plant came into focus after a police lathicharge on protesters on the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Kochi on June 17 for inauguration of Kochi Metro Rail. IOC is constructing the LPG Import Terminal of six lakh tonnes capacity a year at the Special Economic Zone of Cochin Port Trust at Puthuvypeen. The project also includes laying of a pipeline from the jetty to Kochi refinery. It is proposed to connect this pipeline to the Kochi- Salem Pipeline, which is also under construction. IOC has targetted completing the LPG Import Terminal at Kochi by February 2018.